Just because a hotel may not have a $50,000+ marketing budget, it doesn't mean that its marketing department can't compete effectively and build a strategic plan that includes website updates, guest reviews, mobile marketing, social media monitoring and management, and reputation management. For a small investment, Lodging Interactive, a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry, can cost-effectively provide hoteliers with these "Top 5" digital marketing elements that are key to building online awareness and maintaining a competitive edge in 2014.
"You don't need a lot of money to have an effective digital marketing program," said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive Founder and President. "Instead, hoteliers with limited budgets simply need a partner with proven and award-winning digital content and creative skills . . . an advisor that can easily extend its expertise from the Web to mobile and social media programs . . . and a hospitality specialist that can provide initial consulting, supplemental assistance or a total outsourced program with pricing and program flexibility to make it successful. All that and much more — from building quarterly landing pages and Facebook widgets to creating online videos and email marketing campaigns — is available affordably today through Lodging Interactive."
Lodging Interactive has identified five elements as must-haves for hotels with limited budgets in 2014, and offers affordable programs for supporting each of these mission-critical items.
1. Website Updates: So you have a website. Good. When was the last time you refreshed its content? Continually adding new photos makes the website more visually appealing. Is the site interactive? Updating content to include press releases and blogs that are linked to your hotel’s various social media channels will ensure more chatter and visibility. Are you reaching your intended audience? Someone needs to be accountability to ensure that the web page is meeting goals. If a limited budget includes limited human capital, seek the expertise and assistance of an outside digital marketing agency that specializes within the hospitality industry.
Through Lodging Interactive's Hotel Website Solutions program, hotel marketers can refresh their web site every two years, at no additional cost, PLUS they receive:
• RFPLink group lead capture and reporting
• Online analytical reporting
• Homepage call-to-action tile images
• Website Hosting and Server Management
• Robust Content Management, and
• Guest Review System at no additional cost.
2. Guest Reviews: A June 2013 Local Consumer Review Study reveals that 79 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. If that's not a compelling enough reason as to why a review program should be part of the hotel's website, consider this: The latest Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising report, which surveyed more than 28,000 Internet respondents in 56 countries, found that 92 percent of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising. Nearly six-in-10 global online consumers (58 percent) trust messages found on company websites, and half trust email messages that they signed up to receive.
Lodging Interactive offers a turn-key Guest Review System that gives travelers a place to post reviews and score their hotel experiences based on service attributes. Hotel managers receive real-time alerts advising when pending guest reviews pop up, eliminating delays in addressing concerns and turning potential problems into new opportunities. The GRS keeps guests on the hotel's website and away from the OTA’s. In addition, travelers can share their reviews on Facebook with their network of friends, opening up avenues to new booking audiences, and again, more revenues. Lodging Interactive's Facebook Widget links comments from the hotel's website to its Facebook page in real time.
3. Hotel FAQs: Does your hotel website answer "all" your guest's questions? If your web presence is limited to the brand site, the answer is probably "no." As a do-it-yourself or fully-managed service, Lodging Interactive will oversee a hotel's online FAQ listing, including developing questions people typically ask, sourcing the answers from the hotel, and allowing new questions to be asked by consumers online to help hotels increase conversion rates, maximize organic search and boost SEO rankings.
Through the HotelFAQs.info service, Lodging Interactive will add a "Check Out Our FAQs" float button for every page of the hotel's website. Standard FAQ categories are what you’d expect such as "Events & Attractions," "Accommodations," "Dining," "Meetings & Conventions," "Local Area Fun," etc., and each hotel can set up an unlimited amount of categories to meet their unique needs. When a traveler clicks on the category, he or she is navigated to the FAQ page that provides details about each topic. HotelFAQs.info easily integrates into any hotel’s Facebook page and blog. Fully mobile compatible, HotelFAQs.info enables smartphone users to also benefit from vital FAQ content, thereby supporting and increasing mobile booking conversion rates.
4. Social Media Monitoring & Management: Did you know that Google+ has taken over the No. 2 social media position from Twitter? According to reports, it may even replace Facebook in the No. 1 spot in a few years. Hoteliers who are only familiar today with the top three social media channels will find themselves falling dramatically behind their competition in 2014 if they don't market themselves via Google+, Pinterest and other critical social media outlets.
If your hotel is having a tough time understanding the value of these important marketing channels, don’t ignore them. Instead, partner with a social media engagement company that offers a turnkey service for creating and professionally managing Google+ Business Pages and boosting Search Engine Optimization positioning. One that acts as an extension of a hotel's marketing department, and takes a pro-active role in managing each property's online presence and communications to not only Google+, but to all social media networking communities.
5. Reputation Management: Hotels of all sizes have begun to add social media technologies that monitor a hotel's or brand's online reputation, but unless those tools are being maximized, reputations and business practices can still suffer. Lodging Interactive believes that it takes people, in addition to technologies, to make reputation management effective. Lodging Interactive has teamed up with leading hospitality reputation-management companies to supplement their technology applications and provide the human resources necessary to answer guest reviews and manage guest responses on behalf of the hotel. Properties using solutions from outside reputation-management companies can outsource the social media monitoring and guest review response portion to Lodging Interactive.
"Independent hotel operators may think that they can't compete with the big boys because they lack the financial and human resources and support systems that a franchise provides — but that's a huge misconception," Vallauri said. "Through a trusted partner like Lodging Interactive, an independent hotel can benefit from the same and in many cases more comprehensive online marketing services offered by the brands, and with flexible pricing options.
"Our team of experts are tackling these issues daily for hoteliers with limited budgets. The end result is a sizeable return on owners' investments and a solid digital marketing strategy that is turning online lookers into bookers."